Despite US military leadership stating there is zero tolerance for murder, assault and hazing, recent Marine Corps court-martial plea bargains and court-martial panel decisions in manslaughter and assault trials indicate strong institutional "tolerance" for those crimes.
None of 8 Marines Charged in the notorious 2005 Haditha Murder of 24 Unarmed Civilian Iraqis is Convicted
Six years after a horrific attack in 2005 on unarmed Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha, Iraq, in which 24 persons, including seven children, a toddler, three women and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, were killed by US Marines in retaliation for an IED blowing up a Marine vehicle in which one Marine died, no Marines have been found guilty of murder or manslaughter.
On January 24, 2012, the last of eight Marines accused in the murder of 12 of the 24 unarmed civilian Iraqis, had nine counts of manslaughter dropped for a plea of guilty to a single count of negligent dereliction of duty. Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich admitted to the court that he had told his squad to "shoot first, ask questions later."
Of the seven other Marines charged for the deaths of the civilians, one Marine was acquitted and the six others in his squad had their cases dropped by Marine prosecutors in exchange for their cooperation and testimony against the other two Marines.
However, when Wuterich's case finally came to trial, the prosecution agreed to a plea bargain after Wuterich's squad members began giving contradictory testimony to what they told investigators during the initial investigation six years before. The changed testimony precipitated the prosecution's plea deal for Wuterich for the Haditha murders.
Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel, a Marine Corps spokesman, said the plea deal was the result of mutual negotiations and does not reflect how the case was going for the prosecution. He said the government investigated and prosecuted the case as it should have.
After the Marine prosecutors' decision to offer Wuterich a plea bargain and dropped the nine manslaughter charges, military judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, recommended a maximum sentence of three months for Wuterich. Jones said, "It's difficult for the court to fathom negligent dereliction of duty worse than the facts of this case." However, after seeing the prosecution and defense terms of agreement for the plea bargain, Jones said that the deal agreed to by the prosecution prevented any jail time for Wuterich.
Jones recommended that Wuterich be reduced in rank to Private, which would have docked his pay, but he decided not apply this punishment as Wuterich is a divorced father with the sole custody of three children.
Wuterich read a statement apologizing to the families of the victims stating that he never fired on or intended to harm innocent women and children, but that his plea should not be seen as a statement that he believed his squad had dishonored their country.
Outrage and Anger in Iraq for No Marines Held Accountable for Murder of 24 Unarmed Civilians
a reminder of the protest and outrage in Iraq with the plea bargain to drop nine
manslaughter counts for the Marine brought to a court martial in the deaths of
24 unarmed civilians in Haditha six years ago, these are the names of the
unarmed children, women and men killed by the Marines in the village of Haditha:
House #1--7 killed, 2 injured (but survived), 2 escaped
1. Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, 76--grandfather, father and husband. Died with nine rounds in the chest and abdomen.
2. Khamisa Tuma Ali, 66--wife of Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali
3. Rashid Abdul Hamid, 30.
4. Walid Abdul Hamid Hassan, 35.